The black and white shorebird with long legs, short neck, and round head calmly grazed in the grass next to the parking lot, oblivious to the delighted birders who looked on from a distance through their binoculars and spotting scope.
A Black-bellied Plover isn’t a rare occurrence at Howard Marsh Metropark on the southwestern shore of Lake Erie.
The marsh in northwestern Ohio attracts a lot of shorebirds and waterfowl throughout spring, summer, and fall.
However, the Black-bellied Plover is a bird many people have never seen.
I met five people yesterday at the marsh who had never seen one.
In fall plumage, the medium-sized shorebird still stands out, despite lacking the striking jet black and snow white colors of breeding plumage with checkerboard wings.
Somehow I’ve been fortunate to see the beautiful Black-bellied Plover each year for the past four years.
The first time I saw one was on a group birding excursion organized by Black Swamp Bird Observatory to Sandusky Bay, east of Port Clinton, Ohio.
And the last time—before this weekend—was two weeks ago on the outskirts of Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Despite being on their migration path, the Black-bellied Plover is a rare bird to find in southeast Michigan.
After 45 minutes of searching a dull-brown harvested cornfield in cold, windy, overcast weather, another birder and I managed to find the bird less than 20 feet from us, in a flock of Killdeer.
The other birder left. I stayed.
And shared the sighting with three other birders who arrived within 10 minutes to look for the rare bird.
Who shared with 10 other birders.